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In Kestrel For A Knave, Hines presents most of Billy's schooling, and his teachers of any significance that we encounter, in a negative way - Discuss.

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Wider Reading In Kestrel For A Knave, Hines presents most of Billy's schooling, and his teachers of any significance that we encounter, in a negative way. The very first teacher we encounter, Mr Gryce, typifies that impression. He is the head teacher of the school and is very strict. The first word Hines uses to describe him is "furious" which gives the reader a notion of what he is like. He walks around with a cane to intimidate the children. During assembly he shouts at a boy for coughing, even though he clearly didn't see who it was. I think that this aspect of his character is not really convincing or realistic at least not by the standards of my own school. This has the effect of making me question Hines' characterisation, but it does at least make his attitude towards Billy's teachers very clear. The main thing I notice about Hines' presentation of Mr Gryce is the way he makes him contradict himself. An example of this occurs when a child reads from the bible, "Never despise one of these little ones," and yet Mr Gryce treats younger people particularly badly. This confirms my impression that we should have no sympathy towards him and suggests that Hines has set out to ridicule him. Gryce even canes Billy for falling asleep during the Lords Prayer. I notice how intimidated the children are by his presence, "When he arrived they formed up as neatly as a hand of cards being knocked together." In this respect he is effective as a head teacher, but his unorthodox methods and lack of fairness overshadow this. Mr Farthing is the only teacher that gives Billy a chance to demonstrate his knowledge and excel in class. He instructs Billy to tell the class a story about himself and if he doesn't, the whole class must stay after school. Although his action seems quite harsh, I interpret it as a gesture of faith in Billy or children like him. ...read more.


Good things, such as Billy finding his Kestrel, the beautiful setting, Billy being happy and having decent conversations with adults, all occur in the rural setting. It is never actually suggested by Hines that Billy's school is in an urban area, but with the amount of grief he suffers there on a regular basis, we are led to believe that it is an urban setting. Hines seems to link urbanisation with entrapment and nature with freedom. It is a recurring theme throughout the book and possibly reflects his own personal opinion on each environments way of life. Hines' intentions seem clearly indicated in the contrasts between Billy's relationships with adults in urban and rural settings. In the town, Mr Porter does not treat Billy with respect, "they're all alike off that estate," but in the countryside the farmer he talks to does treat him with respect, "the farmer laughed and ruffled the hair of the little girl who was standing just behind him." I believe the previous line is symbolic of the farmer ruffling Billy's hair, rather than the little girls, possibly for his persistence in wanting to find the hawk's nest. When in the town, at the recreation ground, the fence shakes Billy off, but in the countryside, Billy climbs up a large tree and a wall successfully. I think Hines is perhaps commenting on our ability to spoil natural environments and what industry has done to nature. The weather in these two areas also contrasts. The weather where Billy lives is described solemnly, "The sky was a grey wash, pale grey over the fields behind the estate, but darkening overhead, to charcoal away over the city." The area in the countryside is described as the opposite, "The sun was up and the cloud band in the East had thinned to a line on the horizon, leaving the dome of the sky clear." ...read more.


He also has a dysfunctional family and neglectful mother. From the first few pages of A Kestrel For A Knave, we know how lonely Billy is. Hines' chilling description of his house and surroundings reinforce this. The repetition of the words empty and grey convey how alone he is. Hines even describes the recreation ground, a place of play, almost like a prison, "the lamps went out, the gate was locked." We can sense Billy's mood throughout the story from just the opening few pages. Even at the end of the story, Hines uses the same dull description as Billy revisits every place that affected him that day, "a row of derelict houses, a derelict cinema." There are different kinds of loneliness suffered by each main character. David feels like a prisoner, trapped under the regime of the Murdstone's. In the much shorter episode describing David's education at home Dickens manages to give an equal, even epic, scale to David's misery. He claims five days there; occupy the place of years in his remembrance. "The ringing of bells, the opening and shutting of doors, the murmuring of voices." The repetition of "ing" gives a melancholy and musical note to the writing and accentuates how bored he felt, noticing and remembering even little things. "I was a prisoner," clearly shows how alone he felt, especially as he was unable to mix with other children. Ironically Billy is able to mix with other children, but is unwilling to initiate a friendship. Dickens also emphasises his main characters mood using sombre words such as "gloom, fear and remorse." Both writers present all teachers in a negative way, to enable the reader to sympathise with the main character. Both get caned and treated unfairly. The writers also use symbolism to get across thoughts and feelings. The fact that both Billy and David are separated from their father helps the reader to empathize with them. However, on occasions, both writers perhaps over play their descriptions of the teachers' behaviour, possibly to gain more sympathy for their main character. By Ravneek Gahunia 1 ...read more.

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